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Won U.S. District Courts

A.P. v. Tomah Area School District 

School district removes a ban on religious expression in student assignments after refusing to grade an art piece with picture of cross and reference to John 3:16.

School Locker


Anthony Petri, a senior at Tomah High School in Wisconsin, drew a picture for art class with a road, a cross, and the words “John 3:16 – a sign of love.” His art teacher, Mrs. Millen, told him to remove the Scripture reference, and he refused. She gave him a zero for the assignment because of the religious content of the drawing and the potential that it would offend other students. The art teacher enforced an assignment policy prohibiting artwork with "blood, violence, sexual connotations or religious beliefs." However, the teacher allowed artwork that portrayed demon-like creatures.

With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, Anthony filed a lawsuit to challenge the censorship of his religious message contained in his artwork. Shortly thereafter, the school district agreed to settle the case. Under the terms of the settlement, Tomah Area School District officials removed the ban on religious expression in class assignments.  Anthony's artwork, which initially received a “zero,” was graded.  Additionally, Tomah High School has removed from school records any and all references to the disciplinary actions taken against Anthony.

What's at stake

The freedom of students to share their religious beliefs at school without fear of censorship or punishment.

The freedom of students to include religious elements or designs in school art projects.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom represented Anthony in the defense of his rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Case Documents

Case Profiles

David A. Cortman
David A. Cortman
Senior Counsel, Vice President of U.S. Litigation
David A. Cortman serves as senior counsel and vice president of U.S. litigation with Alliance Defending Freedom.